New Milford Police Chief Colin McCormack notified town leaders this week he will retire as of June 30, a move that surprised many in town.

The 29-year veteran's notice follows that of the department's captain and two veteran detectives who also will retire at about the same time.

Rumors had circulated in some quarters that Chief McCormack might be considering leaving, as his contract was scheduled to expire in November.

Chief McCormack, who was appointed to his current post in 2000 after a stint as acting chief following Chief Jim Sweeney's resignation, is away on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

The news of Chief McCormack's decision was met with surprise Tuesday at the New Milford Police Department.

"Wow! You caught me by surprise with this one,'' said Lt. James Duda, who along with Deputy Chief Norbert Lillis will be the sole department administrators left as of the end of June.

The other three retirees are Capt. Michael Mrazik, a 29-year veteran hired in the same class as Chief McCormack, and veteran detectives Larry Lynch, with 39 years at the NMPD, and William Kaminski, with 26 years on the force.

Police in New Milford can retire with a full pension -- with their benefits based on the best salary package from three of the last five years -- after serving for 25 years.

Like some other officers, Lt. Duda said he suspects the timing of these retirements is related to a combination of factors that include longevity, future economic uncertainties and the fact the police union contract is in arbitration and the results could affect even non-union benefits.

Chief McCormack and Capt. Mrazik are not part of the union.

The union contract now in arbitration is primarily related to salary and benefits, with contributions to medical coverage a point of contention. The union has a separate pension plan that expires in 2011.

"Change is good sometimes,'' Lt. Duda said. "The chief has done his 25 years.

"He is a very talented individual who has done a lot for this agency," the lieutenant observed. "Whatever he decides to do in his future, I wish him the best of luck.''

Likewise, Capt. Mrazik said he had not officially heard of the chief's retirement but wished him well.

Capt. Mrazik had high praise for the two detectives.

"I think, obviously, those two (Detectives Lynch and Kaminski) are two of the finest officers to come through the doors of the New Milford Police Department,'' Capt. Mrazik said.

"They're both dedicated individuals and I will miss them dearly," he related. "But then again I won't be around to miss them.''

Messages for the two detectives were not returned by late Tuesday afternoon.

Asked Tuesday what Chief McCormack's retirement means to the town, Mayor Pat Murphy commended the chief for his commitment to the community for all these years.

"He's done a good job for the town," said the mayor, who was officially notified of Chief McCormack's resignation Monday.

"He's very well-qualified, and he's very smart," Mayor Murphy said. "He's got great organizational skills ... and has done a lot of work with other municipalities. He's done well building up our police force.''

Chief McCormack's retirement letter offers the town the chance to work out a deal with Chief McCormack to serve as interim chief but Mayor Murphy said she is not certain whether or not that will occur.

The mayor said the search process will begin shortly, but she has no idea how long it might take to find the appropriate hire.

Chief McCormack earns an annual base salary of about $104,000.

With all of these retirements occurring at once, Mayor Murphy said she is not concerned about the police department's welfare. Rather, she said, she sees it as an opportunity for promotion and growth.

The timing makes sense, she said, because most of these officers have been eligible to supplement their salaries with private duty construction jobs that are calculated into their pension reimbursements. In the future, Mayor Murphy said, it is likely there will be fewer of these jobs.

"It's a very good police force, so I don't expect this will change any of their commitment, or ability to do their job well,'' Mayor Murphy said. "While you'll miss the talent of the people who are leaving, we still have a lot of talented, hardworking individuals who are up there and will still work to make sure New Milford is safe."

Town Council member Bob Guendelsberger concurs.

"I think it's an opportunity for New Milford to go forward,'' Mr. Guendelsberger said.

He commended the chief as an officer who has been a "faithful public servant forever'' and along with the others will be missed. But he also sees this as a chance to refresh the operation.

"I think this is an opportunity to bring in fresh faces and new ideas,'' Mr. Guendelsberger concluded.

Contact Nanci Hutson


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